Ticking clocks are always exciting—except for when your favorite team is running up against one as it tracks down the final piece to its NBA Finals puzzle.
The Chicago Bulls don't have much longer to decide whether they're gonna move on Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love. The NBA draft is a week away. The Bulls have two picks in the first round—16th and 19th.
When those two first-rounders are gone, they'll lose much of their leverage, and any trade with the T-Wolves will likely prove too costly.
The edge that Chicago owns isn't imaginary, either. This is a regular playoff team that's arguably one scorer away from being a title contender.
It’s still unclear, according to league sources, if the Timberwolves have fully committed to trading Love, but if they are, Golden State and Chicago are considered front-runners, with Denver said to be in the mix.
What separates those teams? The players they could offer Minnesota.
There’s speculation that Golden State could offer a package including shooting guard Klay Thompson, forward David Lee, while Chicago could offer a package including Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson.
That follows a report from Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times that revealed the Bulls would be willing to trade whatever's not nailed down and/or named Derrick Rose in order to get enough cap space to sign Love, Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James:
According to several NBA sources Sunday, the Bulls have been actively looking to improve the starting lineup at almost any cost, with Derrick Rose the only untouchable player—and not by choice.
“They are looking to exhaust as many assets as it will take,’’ one source said of general manager Gar Forman and head of basketball operations John Paxson.
What could prove problematic for Chicago is that Joakim Noah wouldn't want to see Taj Gibson offloaded to make way for Anthony, or, one could surmise, Love, according to Cowley. Adding a perennial All-Star might not be worth it if it means throwing off the team's locker room chemistry. Look at what happened with Dwight Howard in Los Angeles.
You wonder how much the Bulls' pursuit of Love might clash with their desire to add Anthony in free agency. Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported on June 14 that if the New York Knicks star decides to opt out, the Bulls and Houston Rockets lead the field:
New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony is leaning toward leaving in pursuit of immediate championship contention, and awaits the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets to clear the necessary salary-cap space to sign him in free agency, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
As re-signing with the Knicks continues to fade as his priority, Chicago and Houston have emerged as the clear frontrunners to acquire Anthony, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Anthony's meeting with Knicks officials on Friday night had little impact on his state of mind, league sources said, because there remain too many uncertainties about how quickly president Phil Jackson can reshape the team into a championship contender.
You can never say never, but surely it's a one-or-the-other situation with Love and Anthony. Unless one or both players are willing to take pay cuts, Chicago can't afford the two on the payroll.
CSNChicago.com's Kevin Anderson tried to envision all of the moving parts necessary in order for the Bulls to grab the two All-Stars.
The plan involves trading Jimmy Butler, Gibson, the rights to Nikola Mirotic and two 2014 first-rounders for Love. Then Chicago would amnesty Carlos Boozer and trade Mike Dunleavy Jr. to somebody who would take him in order to ease the financial burden. The last stage is convincing 'Melo to sign for $11.5 million in the first year of his deal.
While that's all possible, Anderson admitted that the chances of so many things happening in the Bulls' favor are remote. Fans can hope, of course, but they shouldn't get too attached to a lineup featuring Rose, Love and Anthony.
If Chicago is serious about adding a marquee talent, then it may have to focus its efforts on one player.